Agrarian Socialism: The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, a Study in Political Sociology

By S. M. Lipset | Go to book overview
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Chapter II
THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SETTING

THE GREAT PLAINS region of Canada is the last settled agricultural frontier on the North American continent. Lying directly north of the wheat belt of Dakota and Montana, it is in every major respect similar to those regions in geographic appearance and economic structure.

Until 1870 the area that now comprises Alberta and Saskatchewan was governed as the private property of the Hudson's Bay Company. Its population consisted of Indian tribes and small groups of whites and half-breeds who worked for "the Company." In 1869 the newly formed Dominion of Canada purchased the rights to this gigantic territory, including what is now the province of Manitoba.

The land was thrown open to agricultural development after 1870. Settlement was encouraged on a homestead basis similar to the manner in which the western United States was occupied. Despite the fertility of the land, however, settlement lagged. By 1891 only 251,473 people lived in the entire region, while the much smaller Territory of Dakota, directly south, had a population of 510,000. The major reason for the failure to attract settlers was

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